A Starfield NPC standing tall. But can you kill all Starfield's NPCs?

One of Starfield’s Most Memorable Side Quests Introduces Space Batman

In Starfield, a slate on a dead Spacer reveals the location of a “once in a lifetime” find in a distant system. You go there and unravel the story of a son whose absent mother sent him on a quest when she died of a terminal illness. After solving some puzzles and killing a bunch of Spacers, you discover the mother’s secret: she was The Mantis, aka Space Batman.

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You kill a lot of Spacers in Starfield. They’re the game’s bandits, the human enemies that you 100% should not feel bad for shooting, stabbing, blowing up, or blasting into space. Why should you not feel bad about it? In this science fiction playground where organ harvesting is relegated to an inventory item, the details are left to the imagination; the answer is, “Don’t worry about it.”

Sometimes, while looting a spacer, you’ll find a slate with a message. Usually, this is some light backstory, a statement from the Spacer leader telling her underlings to do pirate stuff. But this one time, it’s a message from one Spacer to another: We found a huge score. Come check it out as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

Related: Don’t Skip Starfield’s Most Useful History Lesson

Starfield is a game of opportunities. Players are encouraged to explore; the game will gently steer you toward adventure. It’s a staple of Bethesda’s design, and anyone who played Skyrim will recognize in this slate the same storytelling DNA as the Beacon of Meridia. The game is literally saying, “Hey, go check this out.”

When you arrive, the Lair of the Mantis looks much like the thousands of planetary bases you come across in Starfield, with one distinguishing feature: a massive circular door built into the ground. Is this a missile base? The only way to find out is to go inside.

But first, you have to wade through a ton of Spacers, who all apparently got the same message as your perforated pal, and who defend their new claim with the zeal you expect from nameless, faceless video game bad guys. As you drop them, their corpses join bodies that were there before you arrived. These Spacers weren’t the first to claim this place.

You also start to find slates on some of the bodies, diaries left by a man named Leon (why each slate can only hold one single audio entry in the year 2330 is never explained.) He is not a Spacer. You learn he was drawn here after his mother passed away. He talks about his mother’s absenteeism and how conflicted he is about being here. You also find a slate saying that he’s dead. This is not a rescue mission.

The resistance gets tougher, not only from the Spacers but from the defenses put in place by whoever used to own this facility. After a particularly chaotic firefight with some dug-in Spacers, you find Leon’s corpse, with a final slate (how many of these things are people carrying around?) This kid, woefully unprepared, was killed by a puzzle involving turrets in the next room. Whatever his mother was testing him for, he failed.

That puzzle is pretty deadly if you haven’t been paying attention (hint: the key is in the first slate you find at the beginning of the facility), but hardened space badass that you are, you’re much better prepared for this test than Leon. On the other side of it is the truth of the Mantis.

Related: Why Starfield’s NPCs Looks So Weird and Uncanny

You emerge into a massive underground cavern full of DIY workbenches and computers. At the end of it is the underside of that big circular platform: a starship elevator, and on it is a mean-looking black-and-gold starship bristling with weaponry. Nearby is a mannequin in a glass case displaying a unique armor set: a long white cape connected to a peaked helmet, like a cowl.

Sound familiar? Yeah, the Mantis is Space Batman in Starfield. You discover that the Mantis is a title passed down through generations to worthy space adventurers passionate about killing Spacers and pirates. The previous Mantis distanced herself from her family when she took on the role, but a terminal illness cut her tenure short. She intended to pass the job on to her son, but he wasn’t ready. Her tests killed him.

It’s not just a cute reference to a beloved pop culture icon. It’s also a nice nod to some of the more interesting Batman stories, like Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Death of the Family, which interrogates the kind of man Bruce Wayne becomes in his quest for justice and how alienating that can be for the people who love him. Leon is a stand-in for a Dick Grayson or Damian Wayne, who was never trained to be Robin but is expected to take on the mantle of the Bat. Leon’s fate, the cruelty in which his mother kills him after she has died, the machine she created grinding her son up and spitting him out, is vintage Bruce Wayne psychopathy.

On the other hand, you are ready, and you can take the armor and ship of the Mantis, the Razorleaf, for yourself — and the reputation. If you come across this quest as early as I did, the armor of the Mantis is way beyond what you’re carrying. While not a complete upgrade to the Frontier, the Razorleaf does have one particular quality: a shielded cargo hold, which lets you smuggle contraband into major Starfield cities like Neon and New Atlantis.

While flying under the flag of Mantis, enemy ships will sometimes panic and run at the sight of you, making some fights easier. It’s a fun continuation of a storyline that more or less ends when you leave the Lair of the Mantis. Like most RPG quests that give you unique, powerful items, the Mantis gear will eventually be outclassed by other armor and ship upgrades, but this fun sci-fi twist on Batman sticks around as one of Starfield‘s memorable sidequests.


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Author
Colin Munch
Colin has been writing online about storytelling in movies, TV, and video games since 2017. He is an actor, screenwriter, and director with over twenty years of experience making and telling stories on stage, on the page, and on film. For The Escapist, he writes the Storycraft column about, you guessed it, storytelling in movies and video games. He's on Threads @colinjmunch